A look inside the NFC East after six weeks
By Tyrone Starr
Prior to the season, I wrote up my yearly preview of the division in an attempt to determine the likelihood of a Dallas Cowboys repeat performance of last year’s division title winning experience.
Oh, how so much can change in six weeks…
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Six weeks ago, the Philadelphia Eagles looked like they would average forty points a game, the New York and Washington had multiple question marks and the Cowboys looked like they could be the deepest they have been in years from a talent standpoint.
As it is, the Giants and Eagles just played for the division lead last night with both teams having the best offense and defense in the division and the only thing keeping Dallas out of the cellar is the fact they’ve played one game less than everyone else.
Truth be told, this team is struggling in every facet of the game.
The offense, supposed to be the pillar of strength, is better than only seven other teams in the league and barely above Washington in comparison to divisional foes.
While almost all of that can be blamed on devastating injuries to quarterback Tony Romo and receiver Dez Bryant, that depth that we thought was a strength heading into the season, clearly is not. It’s rare to have a back up quarterback that is qualified to be a legitimate starter but the play of the wide receivers has been embarrassing.
In an almost unprecedented situation, it’s very likely that both the quarterback and running back seeing the bulk of the work will be two guys who were not ever in camp with the team.
The running game, relied upon last year for so much of the success this team had, is a mess. Starter Joseph Randle falls outside the top 20 in rushing yards and outside the top 30 in yards per attempt. Safe to say that not just anyone can run behind this line, which has played no where near the level of expectations either.
Defensively, they are allowing too many points and not creating enough turnovers. Every team that allows more points than Dallas is either in last place or second to last in their respective division. The Cowboys are also second to last in both interceptions and fumble recoveries.
The return of Greg Hardy showed promise along the front that pressure can be had on the opposing quarterback, however that pressure is not relevant if it doesn’t lead to stops or turnovers.
As a case in point, the previous game against New England was the Cowboys best in terms of sacks as the got to Tom Brady on five separate occasions. Unfortunately, they only produced one “three and out” drive, created zero turnovers and allowed thirty points.
As for the special teams, there is nothing “special” about them, aside from Dan Bailey. The Cowboys are in the bottom third when it comes to kickoff return average and are second to last in punt return average.
So how can the Cowboys fulfill my prophecy of winning the division again??
Well, the good news is that their division isn’t as strong as it normally has been in past years. The NFC East is lead by the Philadelphia Eagles and New York Giants both at 3-3. Both already have a loss to the Cowboys.
The Giants three wins have all come against teams with a losing record. Just like the Cowboys, they have many injury issues to deal with. They also have one of the worst pass defenses in all of football.
Philadelphia looks like a worse situation than the Cowboys, especially when you factor in that health has not been any excuse to their woes. Four of their next six games are on the road, including games at undefeated Carolina and New England and the rematch with Dallas.
As for Washington, there is nothing that gives any one confidence that Kirk Cousins is capable of winning on the road. They also have to play both Carolina and New England in the coming weeks on the road which will all but certainly be losses.
Home games with the Giants, Saints and Cowboys will also be tough for a team who struggles to score (28th in points per game, 23rd in passing yards). Lastly, Dallas will get both cracks at Washington with a healthy Romo and Bryant at their disposal.
Finally, none of these three teams have anything remotely close to a quarterback that you should fear. The three (Cousins, Eli Manning and Sam Bradford) have a combined 26 touchdowns and 21 interceptions.
The door is open for the Cowboys if they can just hold the fort down for a few more weeks. No one is likely to run away with this division.
I am sticking with my prediction of the Cowboys winning the division but the margin for error is minuscule. Next week is a great opportunity for Dallas to make a statement.
Hopefully they do just that.
Next: 5 reasons Cowboys fans should be happy going into Week 7